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Why Don’t People Seek Help?

By DeAnza Bonzelaar

In 2018, 15.1 million adults aged 26 or older needed substance abuse treatment. Only 1.4% or 3 million received treatment.¹ The vast majority of people who need treatment for substance use disorders do not get it. The question is begged to be asked: why are struggling people not seeking help? If you or I had diabetes, we would not hesitate to schedule an appointment to see a doctor. If we had cancer, we would seek medication attention as soon as possible. So why is the disease of addiction different?

Several barriers can discourage someone from getting help, and many people are deterred by a combination of factors. It is important to know what these barriers are so that they can be overcome. According to a 2007 study, the top barriers to entering treatment for substance use and abuse are:

  1. a perceived absence of problem
  2. negative social support
  3. fear of treatment
  4. privacy concerns
  5. time conflict
  6. poor treatment availability
  7. admission difficulty²

All of these concerns have validity and should be addressed by any provider of addiction recovery treatment. Entry to treatment should be one of the easier parts of a person’s recovery journey. It is for this reason that at Life Challenge, we conducted our own survey of the residents in our program. While we are grateful for the people who have entered our program, we know there are still some hurdles people might have to overcome to enter. The questionnaire addressed the obstacles residents felt they faced when entering our program. Their top barriers included:

  1. finances
  2. time conflict
  3. a willingness to stop using

We will continue conducting these surveys and making changes as we can to help potential residents overcome as many obstacles in getting here as possible. We aim to be part of the solution for the 15.1 million+ people who need substance abuse treatment.

  1. “Substance abuse and addiction statistics [2022],” NCDAS (June 18, 2022).
  2. Richard C. Rapp, Jiangmin Xu, Carey A. Carr, D. Tim Lane, Jichuan Wang, and Robert Carlson, “Treatment Barriers Identified by Substance Abusers Assessed at a Centralized Intake Unit,” U.S. National Library of Medicine (September 20, 2007), Abstract.

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We strive to be a resource for those involved personally in addiction and for affected loved ones. Within our resource blog, we post information on topics such as substance use disorder and addiction, mental health, and treatment and recovery among others. Let us know what other topics you would like to learn more about.

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